Mom-athy

“Don’t tell Mom.” = An e-mail from my sister.

“I know.” = My response.

We hadn’t done anything illegal (you’re shocked, I’m sure). We hadn’t broken anything or hidden any evidence, and we weren’t re-enacting the Christina Applegate movie. We simply decided to protect the woman who bore us from: news of the Return of the Thrush. It may not be grammatically correct to capitalize the name of the infection or to put “the” in front of it, but it feels appropriate. We just weren’t sure Mom could handle it, even though she’s dealt with much greater crises with one hand behind her back and the other one cooking a gourmet dinner. You could hear her teeth grind every time she asked, “Is it any better?” and a pained sigh every time I said, “No, not really.” And I might have thought she was overdoing it a bit, had I not discovered for myself that knowing that your daughter is in pain is a whole new kind of anguish.

My mom will never let me live down the day when I told her, “I am too apathetic.” Eight years old, I didn’t understand what she meant by needing to walk in someone else’s shoes, let alone the difference between empathy and apathy. Now I think that empathy isn’t a strong enough word to describe what I feel when I see Francesca’s white thrushy tongue or how I felt when she got her vaccines last week. She looked up at me in horror and screamed what could only be translated as a mix of “how could you?” and “do something about this!”

“She’s going to make me cry,” I told the nurse.

“It wouldn’t be the first time. We had a dad crying in the corner this morning. And a few months ago, I had a mom who sobbed more than her baby. I told her that next time she might want to bring some support. Guess who she brought.”

“Her mother?”

“Yes. And just by chance, I was the one who gave her baby the next round of vaccines. So then I had baby, Mom, and Grandma all in tears. I told her, ‘Honey, that’s not exactly what I meant by support.'”

Of course, I did tell my mom about the Thrush. That’s why I’m not so covert as to refrain from regaling you of it here. The problem is that no one but Mom can offer the mom-athy I’m describing. That, and the fact that she could tell I was hiding something.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Mom-athy

  1. Tracy

    Hi Cristina,
    I’m so sorry to hear Francesca has thrush. I feel badly for you and Joe and Francesca of course. I remember when Mark and Teresa had their first baby Christopher and he had thrush they thought he would never stop crying. Mark and Teresa could share their knowledge on this and other things. Seven kids gives you experience and knowledge. Hang in there! love your stories
    Tracy

  2. Cassie Christopher

    Oh, man, I feel your pain about the vaccines. At Bobby’s 4 month appointment, the nurse actually made me hold his arms down while she held his legs and gave him his shots. I can still hardly believe that I did that to my own kid. And good luck with the thrush…!!!!

  3. cathy weingeist

    There is nothing worse that the helplessness of no being able to protect your child from pain and sadness. Rob had a seizure when he was 5 and I still look at the photos of that tiny little body sliding into the CAT scan and his eyes fixed on me. And it doesn’t ever end. It was devastating when David’s “true love” dumped him a week before he was finalizing the design for the engagement ring. Oh, the pain that boy felt.
    On the other hand little Rob kept his eyes on me and David called me first and many many times later for comfort. There is nothing a child wants when she hurts than her mommy and that doesn’t change.
    A mothers sorrow and worry doesn’t end, but neither does her unconditional love and the boundless joy. Your bond with Francesca is forever and unbreakable.

  4. The image of an 8-year-old Cristina telling her mom she’s too apathetic is adorable. And I cannot imagine what it must be to step into that exam room with a little baby who can’t understand what’s going on. Maybe one day she’ll be also a mother, who will, like you, feel empathy both for her child, and also for her mother, who went through the same experiences. Beautifully (and hilariously) told story!

  5. Tracy, thanks for the tip to ask Francesca’s aunt and uncle how they dealt with this. I was starting to think that no one I knew had gone through it. Then I found out that my Italian cousin faced this with her baby several times this year. I appreciated the camaraderie, but not the “several years” part.

    Oh, Cassie, you had to hold his arms down?! I wanted to hold her hand or something, and the nurse finally said, “Okay, pick her up. I can put the band-aids on while you’re holding her.” They were the teeny tiniest band-aids I’d ever seen, especially for such great big cries.

    Cathy, I was just starting to think how this would never end, since I can see my mom still experiencing it. I worked on the epilepsy unit at Children’s hospital a lot last year, and I really don’t know how all those moms do it. You must have been terrified, watching Rob go into the CAT scan. Thank goodness you have two healthy boys.

    Yes, Jennifer, I was nothing if not precocious. I like your seeing the future of this cycle. I can’t help wondering what it holds.

  6. Pingback: Mom-athy Part 2 · Crucial Minutiae